Sorry. You probably came here looking for Tips and Tools. Instead, you found a disturbing Truth:
You can’t become a Great Author.
Before you get angry, you should know that the truth is worse than you think:
No one can become a Great Author.
Now you can get angry.
You’re probably saying that this is not true, and you can rattle off a dozen examples by the last name alone: King, Tolkien, Lovecraft, Gaiman, Rowling, Meyer… People who painted vivid pictures and epic sagas and amazing characters with only some words on a page.
I wanted to become a Great Author, and I read dozens of books that tell you how. I read books that promise your manuscript can be the gold the interns lust after as they sludge through the slush pile into the thin morning hours.
But it’s all lies.
Avoid Passive Writing, one would say. Watch Your Point of View, says another. Make your protagonist human. Make your villains hateable. Write as much as you can. Write every day. Vary your sentence length. The secret is in the revision. Three-part story structure. Show, don’t tell. Be transparent. Work on your voice…
Lies. None of this will make you a Great Author.
I read the blogs of authors who actually made the book deal. I read about when they write, how they write, why they write, and what music they listen to while they write. I read about authors who don’t like their own stories, begrudging cranking out contractually-obligated manuscripts. I read about authors with a successful series of published books behind them and a multi-book contract ahead of them, they still need to hold down a second job, and thank goodness their spouse has a full-time job with medical insurance. They stuff their blogs with handy tips about how you can be a Great Author just like them.
I read dark fiction / fantasy books like my own, trying to figure out what makes them good and what makes them suck. I dissected classics like a coroner stumbling through an alien autopsy while drunk and blindfolded, trying to tell one piece from another by touch, taste and smell. All I have left to show are a stack of books I really can’t read anymore. Like my friend who let me look up her skirt on the school bus, and now I’ll never see her in the same way again.
I could walk over to the bargain bin at Half-Price Books and pick out at least one book neither of us have ever heard of, but it’s better than most of the current rack of Bestsellers at Borders.
The Truth about Great Authors
Some of you already see through the veil of deception. It’s semantics. A word-game. The truth is that you can’t CHOOSE to become a Great Author, any more than you can choose to become a Lottery Winner.
This is summed up nicely in a simple illustration from The Art of War for Writers by David Scott Bell. At the bottom are those who dream and dabble. Naturally, the size of each section decreases as you go up the author’s career ladder. At the “top” are those who have several published works beneath their belts. But these authors aren’t necessarily “Great” and in fact, they might not even be “Good” but regardless they made it to the “top.” Their reward is not an Automatic Bestseller as you might think. Instead, they get a chance on the wheel.
Illustration of the author’s career path from James Scott Bell’s The Art of War For Writers
The Wheel Of Fortune
Great Authors are not picked off the street, they are picked off the top half of the pyramid in David Scott Bell’s illustration. Every single story you complete, every novel you publish, is an entry in the Author’s Wheel of Fortune. Every published work gets put Out There for the public to judge. Every one of them has the opportunity to become the next Bestseller.
But most of them are destined for the Bargain Bin. Thanks for playing, but we have some lovely parting gifts for you.
Why is this Good News for Writers?
You might think this is all very pessimistic. Intellectual Poison spread to dissuade others from even trying. Actually, I think it’s liberating. Sure, you don’t get to choose whether you win, but you can choose if you want to play.
Your novel has a shot at bestseller status just like James Rollins does. Think about that. Once you realize that you really only control your author career to a certain point, then you can focus on what matters -building a body of solid works. Consistent. Quality. A Platform. A Reputation.
Tipping the Scales
Yes, there are those who want to figure out how the wheel works. They spend endless time, money and effort trying to cheat the system, but here is all you really need to know:
The more you play, the better your odds. The better your entries, the better your odds. These two tips combined have an exponential effect on your odds of becoming a Great Author. If you have lots of entries, each better than the last… do the math. That’s better odds than spending time and money on a viral video campaign for a crappy knockoff of Twilight that hasn’t been professionally edited.
I guess I lied. There is one way that you can become a Great Author:
It’s awesome that there’s enough of a community to pull together themed fashion shows here in Minneapolis and St. Paul. So far we have Music, Vampire, Zombie, and now Steampunk fashion shows. Most of them are very well done and professional. Some are not.
One show in particular left me disappointed. Truth is, I’d hesitate to call it even semi-professional. And that’s a shame, because with just a tiny bit of consideration and a few keystrokes, it could have been on a par with professional events like Voltage: Fashion Amplified.
I see authors who make the same mistakes and come across as unprofessional with their book readings, signings and other public events. This article suggests simple ways to make any event look and feel more professional. It doesn’t pertain to authors only; any event can be made more professional by implementing these suggestions.
One way authors act unprofessional and amateurish is when they are overly-protective of their work. I once met a guy who said he was writing a book, but wouldn’t tell me what it was about. A person in my writer’s group marked on the rough draft he submitted for an editing critique that it was copyrighted. Seriously.
Events can exhibit the same unprofessional behavior on a larger scale. The steampunk fashion show I attended announced that absolutely no one was to take pictures, and anyone so much as exposing a camera would be roughed up. Meanwhile, there were hordes of “approved” people (Read: friends) running videocameras and snapping pix throughout the show.
Contrast that behavior with Voltage Fashion Amplified, a music/fashion show run by local fashion maven, Anna Lee. Cameras are encouraged. Anna knows that even crappy pix from your cellphone are free publicity. Every single person who takes pix of that event, posts the pix online, and reviews the event on their blogs are contributing to the promotion of the event. Why would you limit free publicity?
I suspect that people who are overprotective of their work are simply afraid that someone else will do it better. If that is your fear, then you shouldn’t release your work to the public. Ever. In any shape or form. Just keep in in your closet until you die, then someone else can get rich off it. (Or more likely, throw it away.)
Give First, Sell Second.
Having something on hand to sell is nice, but not necessary.
Having something on hand to give away is necessary.
Most people get this backwards, and treat their event like a Pampered Chef party. “Come to my book reading so you can buy my book!” does not entice anyone but your mother to show up. Tell people what’s in it for them, not what’s in it for you. Free is the keyword. If your event doesn’t cost anything, say so. Prizes and giveaways are a good incentive. You don’t have to give away gold bricks or vials of unicorn tears. Bookmarks, posters or a drawing for a free (signed) copy of your book will work and they don’t cost much.
If you’re charging admission, you better have something pretty stellar to show. People want a lot for their money.
Recently, Prince held a concert and a “free” copy of his latest CD was included in the ticket price. We know better. The price of admission was raised to offset the cost of the CD and his album sales skyrocketed. Someone put a stop to that behavior, and good thing, because it wasn’t fair to those who already owned the CD. But nothing says authors can’t do something similar, like having the book available right at the door and offer a discount if purchased at the same time as the event fee.
Get a Quality MC
The Master of Ceremonies is the personification of your event – arguably as important than the talent. A hack MC can make even a good event look like its run by hacks. There’s more to being a good MC than just being comfortable in front of an audience, and it’s more than just filling empty space with witty banter.
An example of a great event MC is local hero Bobby Marsden, who runs the Fearless Filmmakers events. Bobby knows how to keep things moving along. He can direct a group of people on stage as easily as he can direct the attention of the audience, all while maintaining a sense of humor. Bobby Marsden knows how to control the event. And when he doesn’t, he knows how to maintain appearance of control over the event. Things go wrong. The next act isn’t ready. The projector is broken. The microphone is cutting out. I’ve seen Bobby deal with all this in style, and most of the time, the audience doesn’t even realize something is wrong.
If the MC doesn’t have control, the audience will try to ‘help.’ NOTHING makes your show look like it was put on by a bunch of fanboyz than a bunch of fanboyz in the audience hijacking the show from an inept MC.
Be careful when your MC is also appearing in the show as an act. You might argue that the Oscars, Saturday Night Live and the Teen Choice Awards have announcers and presenters whom also take part in the show. The difference is that they are famous. If you can get Lady Gaga to MC your show, then by all means have her on as a musical guest too. Having your cousin Tim act as MC is fine, but when he shows up later as a musical guest, it looks cheap.
Don’t Hide Your Event
It should be obvious, but if you want people to find your event, posting fliers all over town is optional. Posting the event info online is not. And I don’t mean just the Date, Time and Place. People need to know if there is a cover charge, how long will the event last, and if there are age limitations. Most importantly, if the content of your event isn’t obvious from the title then you need to give a description of the event, ideally one that entices people to go.
It’s not good enough to list the event info on your blog. No one reads your blog. I know, because no one reads mine either. You need to put the info where people will go looking for it.
Start with the venue website.
Local media – Here in Minneapolis, the must-haves are vita.mn and city pages.com, but don’t overlook the MN Daily website, the Rake, Metromix.com and others.
Specialty websites for your type of event. For example Dark Twin Cities.com loves to list local events with some dark flair. Jambase and Eventful list music events.
If you didn’t think of social media like facebook, myspace and twitter, et al. then you should have someone else promote your events for you.
Fine, go ahead and put it on your blog too. It’ll make you feel better.
You’re probably laughing right now. “Zero, have you been smoking grickle-grass with the Lorax? Everybody knows you have to list your events online!”
Um, actually, they don’t. When searching online for the steampunk fashion show, all I could find was an abstract event name which had more to do with porn stars than steampunk fashion. I ended up getting a tiny bit of info from one of the fashion designers for the show, and I totally took a chance even going. Most people would have given up. Actually, most people would never have found out in the first place. Perhaps the people holding the event didn’t want others to attend? Was it pseudo-members-only? That’s the feeling I got, which brings me to my next point.
Don’t Exclude your Audience
Add up the above suggestions and you’ll arrive at a larger truth about events. Be inclusive. Not exclusive. Cliques are for kids. No one’s going to have good things to say about your event if they feel snubbed. In fact, they’ll probably write a blog post just like this one.
If you’re a first-time visitor to Goth Prom, Renn Fest, Voltage: Fashion Amplified, the Zombie Pub Crawl, and other artistic events in the Minneapolis area, you’ll be welcomed, hit on, and have fake blood puked on you like everyone else. That’s the kind of experience that makes you want to not only come back again next year, but invite more people.
I shouldn’t have to say this, but have a schedule. Stick to it as close as you can, but be prepared to be flexible when things go wrong.
OK, maybe you aren’t a big deal. Maybe the only crowd you can draw is your mother, and that’s because you live with her and she’s driving you to the event. If so, you might consider adding to the talent pool. A little cross-promotion can go a long way. Get your author friends involved and make a bigger event out of it. Get local vendors involved. If you can make the event big enough, you might get some sponsors interested.
Is there anything wrong with a writer booking a venue and ignoring these thoughtful tips? Of course not. As long as they’re happy with just their friends showing up. In which case, they’d be money ahead to hold the event in their parents garage, then they can have full control of the event and keep all the money for themselves instead of splitting it with the venue.
But if you want to run a pro event (especially a series of events that will grow over time) you have to include your audience. Make sure they know how fun and value-added your event is. Have a schedule and make sure your MC can manage the crowd in case things go wrong. Make your event findable online. These things separate the pros from a bunch of kids screwing around.
Believe it or not, we will soon be celebrating the 60th anniversary of the classic tale of Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. Disney has the combo DVD/Blu-Ray all set to launch on 11 Feb 2011.
It’s not surprising that this story manages to keep us entertained after 60 years. The dark, childish flexibility of the mythos lends itself to endless disturbing and fascinating reinterpretations. Here are several that I’ve enjoyed and highly recommend: [Read more…]
The last thing I was expecting was a book written by a geographer… sorry, I mean a self-proclaimed “leading urban expert.” It’s too bad, because although there are a lot of insightful observations in The Great Reset, they’re buried in so much geographic factoids and musing that if you tore out all the pages filled with tripe about megacities, megaregions, corridors, belts and coasts, you’d have an amazing, thoughtful pamphlet easily one fifth the size of The Great Reset.
Where’s the Web?
One thing missing from The Great Reset is a fad called the Internet. Mobile computing is also conspicuously absent. Richard Florida must not think these things have a bearing on the current situation or our “new ways of living” because they aren’t mentioned. This is probably because Mr. Florida is a self-proclaimed leading urban expert, and he’s more interested and versed in the physical world than the virtual one. Note that he’s not a suburban expert or a rural expert, so you can probably guess his suggestions for post-crash prosperity, but I’ll touch on some of his main points:
Houses Bad, Apartments Good
He calls suburban houses McMansions. There’s no doubt they played a major part in the housing bubble burst, and were a major contributor to the current recession, but it’s not the houses themselves that are bad. Not even the big ones. It’s people buying houses they couldn’t afford that caused problems. Even I know that, and I’m just a hack writer from Minneapolis. The Great Reset tears down the American Dream of owning a home, equating it to a nightmarish anchor that limits your flexibility, ties you down and sucks all your money away, giving nothing back. Not true of course, but I’ll get to that in a moment.
Mr. Florida believes you are better off living in more consolidated housing. He doesn’t do this himself, mind you. He lives in a house near Toronto, Canada. Most of his rationale about housing is the debt that comes with them, which ties into his next major point:
Owning Bad, Renting Good
Mr. Florida says that housing can no longer be considered an asset that increases in value over time. I don’t know who thought this, but I guess some people did. Anyway, he suggests renting becoming more prevalent as part of the new post-crash economy, which will allow people to be flexible in their employment and living options.
He mentions a housing concept that makes your rental living space more like a subscription that you can change on a moment’s notice. An interesting concept, but one that he doesn’t dwell on long enough to consider its effects. I would have liked to hear what he thought about how ‘subscription housing’ would effect human migration patterns or working conditions or influence job markets. (Would people move to follow nice weather? Would states change their laws or taxes to attract residents? What if businesses were free to move about like people?) Exactly the kind of things I’d hoped to find in this book, sadly lacking.
The internet also makes a case against The Great Reset’s tend towards renting vs owning. What kind of flexibility do you need in housing when you can telecommute? Doesn’t it seem more likely that people will scatter away from high-density (Read: Expensive) areas to get larger property for less cost, and make up for the distance by utilizing high-speed communications technology to trade video/audio/ideas?
This all overlooks an important aspect of owning a home – after you pay off your mortgage, you DONT HAVE A HOUSE PAYMENT ANYMORE. What’s more, this conveniently happens at an important time of your life – retirement, when your income also tends to decrease. And once your home is paid for, even if it’s only worth a fraction of what you bought it for, that equity is profit when you sell. Houses may decrease in value, but they won’t decrease to $0 in thirty years. If you rent, you’ll PAY FOREVER and OWN NOTHING, so keep that in mind, because the “leading urban expert” did not.
Suburbs Bad, Cities Good.
I’d hate to see Richard Florida’s dream world. It would probably look like Zion from the worst parts of the Matrix trilogy, stuffed with living cubicles that look like Bruce Willis’ apartment in The Fifth Element.
Then there’s that pesky internet fad I keep talking about. If a large portion of work, social interactions and entertainment move online, then it doesn’t really matter where you live. In that case, why not get more property for less money? Besides, if you put anyone like me into a hell like that, I’d kill everyone in a half-mile radius so I could have some personal space.
The MegaCity solution provided in The Great Reset doesn’t make sense to me. I’m more inclined to believe cities will go the other way – breaking down into MicroCities; tiny sustainable communities similar to the villages of ye olde days, or the Happy Hippy Communes of the 70s. One person grows crops to feed the village, another raises cattle. One works on computers, another works on the wind turbine and solar panels that power the village. They all pitch in and work together to keep their little community running. Strangely, our Leading Urban Expert never even considers or mentions this possibility. Probably because if it came true, he’d be out of work, and have to retrain to be a Village Expert.
Cars Bad, Bullet Trains Good
Mr. Florida sees cars as an outdated mode of transportation. He advocates connecting large cities together with high speed transit, turning multiple MegaCities into MegaRegions. He suggests that high-speed rail connecting lame-o cities like Minneapolis to important cities like Chicago would allow people to commute to where the jobs are.
But doesn’t this just bump the McMansion problem to a larger scale? Isn’t taking the bullet train from Minneapolis to Chicago every day just like driving your Humvee to work from your McMansion the suburbs? Not to Mr. Florida, who sees a half-hour car trip from the suburbs to the city as wasteful, stressful and pollutive, but a ninety minute bullet train ride between Pittsburg and DC is “reasonable”. Huh? And how this is different from Airplane travel (that we already have) isn’t clear.
I’m sorry, but public transportation does not solve all the problems. If you agree that one of the key features of the “new normal” will be flexibility in jobs, housing and entertainment, public transportation fails, big time. Personal transportation wins. Once again, it isn’t the big cars that are the problem, big cars that people can’t afford are the problem. Easily solved by making smaller, more efficient transportation like smart cars, motorcycles and mopeds, which we already have.
Another possibility that Mr. Florida never considered is that people might start to collect multiple forms of transportation. They’ll walk/bike to work. They’ll take the bus or rail downtown on weekends. They might have a moped/scooter for traveling to friends who don’t live near a busline. And they might still have the big Range Rover under a tarp, but it’s only for the occasional vacation or longer trip.
The overall impression I get from The Great Reset is that Americans should all move to New York and LA. This would not only be efficient and reduce our carbon footprint, but it would make us more connected, so we are better able to exchange and ideas and… well, stuff we share over the internet now.
There is a saying that when the only tool in your toolbox is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. I’d say when you’re a “leading urban expert” everything looks like a problem that can be solved by packing into a Megacity where life is more ‘efficient’. Perhaps he would have a more balanced view if he specialized in geography instead of just urban areas.
Despite many fallacies, omissions, and fluffed up geography discussions that would bore a city planner, The Great Reset poses useful thoughts on consumerism, education, political policies and trends regarding the current recession and comparisons to previous “Resets”. But you’ll have to read ten pages to get one page of useful info.
Yesterday I attended the Minneapolis St. Paul WordCamp 2010. A collection of people who embrace WordPress as their blog platform and/or CMS of choice came together to celebrate a fantastic open-source software package and explore its possibilities.
After a miserably cold slog through the heaviest snowflakes I’d ever experienced, and a Bruegger’s Bagel sandwich that was so bland it made the snowflakes seem tasty, I arrived at the luxurious Best Buy Headquarters. After loading up on t-shirts, stickers and even a pint glass from the nice folks at iphouse, I killed off a Saturday with seminars on everything from coding plugins and themes to custom post types and e-commerce. Lunch was catered by Buca.
At the Customizing WordPress class, Josh Byers gave the audience this geek test: [Read more…]
I’d tried to play Arkham Horror once before, and the game host was hoping to figure out the rules on the fly. Unfortunately, the rules for Arkham Horror would drive the sanest of people barking mad, so needless to say, Cthulhu was victorious on that day.
So when I heard about Arkham Nights at Fantasy Flight Games in Roseville, MN, I figured I would have to be insane to pass it up. The part-gaming-conference, part-product-placement event offered people the chance to sign up for all the different variations and expansions of Arkham Horror, as well as the Call of Cthulhu roleplaying game, and the Call of Cthulhu card game, and a board game called Mansions of Madness that hasn’t even been released yet. Some of the games were being run by the game designers themselves. There was also a panel discussion with the game designers and a costume contest.
Friday I attended “How To Play Arkham Horror” (See if you can find me in this pic.) On Saturday I played the Call of Cthulhu role playing game with one of the Fantasy Flight game designers.
Review of the Arkham Horror Board Game
For those who haven’t played it, Arkham Horror is preposterously complicated. In fact, if it bears any semblance to the struggle we’ll have to go through when Cthulhu finally does awaken…we’re fucked.
That said, the game is also preposterously fun to play. All players work together to kill monsters, close gates to strange dimensions with bad geometry, and at best, just keep the peace until the Ancient One hits the snooze button and goes back to sleep. If you’ve never played before, it’s good to have a moderator there to hold your hand, answer rules questions and give you sage advice. By the end of the game (5 hours, and we did win btw. Take THAT Elder Wimp!) the five of us noobs could have run a game without a moderator.
Review of the Arkham Nights Gaming Event
The facilities were really nice, and just the right size for the over hundred people who showed up. I understand you can rent out table space and there are rooms in the back for those who want to run their campaign against the ancient ones in secret. Fantasy Flight Games offers a membership that provides discounts on game rental and table/room use. Yes, you can rent the games to play right there at the facility. And if you’re planning on actually getting into games like Warhammer 40K you’d be foolish to pass up that member’s discount. Just the core rulebook will set you back $75. But casual gamers won’t balk at the few bucks it costs to rent space for gaming.
No outside food is allowed, but there is a local pizza place that they will allow delivery. Pop, chips and other snacks are available in the facility.
Asking people to pay twenty five bucks to play games you’re trying to sell them is steep. For the price of three people going to this event, you coulda pooled your cash, bought the game and figured it out over the course of several years. And $25 was the pre-registration price – the door admission was more. The real value in the Arkham Nights convention was the ability to play all the variations of the game, with all the expansions, (some of which are as expensive as the core game.) You also got to play with the game designers and with other enthusiastic fans of Lovecraftian Mythos. I’d say $25 was… almost worth it.
Conventions like Minnecon and Convergence charge more than $25, but the offer way more content. Fantasy Flight Games could have offered a ten dollar Fantasy Flight Games gift certificate with each paid registration, free membership, or better yet, knocked ten bucks off the admission price.
The discussion with the game designers and the costume contests were a nice touch, but really there could have been a lot more depth to this event. Focusing on the mythos of HP Lovecraft instead of the games (only) offered by Fantasy Flight would have made this a better event. How about a table for a local book vendor with a selection of Lovecraft’s books? How about local artists Lovecraft-inspired works? How about panels/discussions of the Chtulhu mythos? How about other vendors besides Fantasy Flight Games?
A convention with these things would pull in hundreds if not thousands of interested fans, instead of the hundred or so people who attended. Perhaps they are building up to that. If so, this was a good start.
Strangely, the event organizers waited until the doors opened for people to register for game slots. This means people who showed up at the door had the same chance as someone who pre-registered to get in on the limited games. I was one of the first people in line and signed up at 6:10 for a game that started at 6:00. As you probably guessed, several games filled immediately, and other scheduled games had no one sign up for them.
The event coordinators should have taken game-slot registrations as people signed up. Then, the supply of available games would have been in-line with the demand of people who wanted to play them. Forcing people to fit into their ‘schedule’ didn’t really work. For example, I wanted to try out the Cthulhu card game, but Sunday was the only day I had available for it. There was only ONE Cthulhu card game on Sunday, which booked up immediately. As a person who pre-registered and paid a more-than-modest admission price, I was disappointed.
Hopefully, the administrators of Arkham Nights will take what they’ve learned from this event and use it to make future iterations of Arkham Nights even better. By offering a little more for a little less, and fixing the scheduling issues, Arkham Nights could really take off and become something to look forward to each year.
Conrad Zero as an evil harlequin with a chainsaw. Halloween 2006
Bringing Scary Back (to Vampires)
Q: What’s more frightening than a vampire clown?
A: A vampire clown with a chainsaw.
And that’s what you’ll find in Draculas, the e-book that drops today by no less than four authors:
Four well-known horror authors pool their penchants for scares and thrills, and tackle one of the greatest of all legends, with each writer creating a unique character and following them through a vampire outbreak in a secluded hospital.
The goal was simple: write the most frightening book they possibly could.
Which they did.
A word of warning:
Within these pages, you will find no black capes, no satin-lined coffins, no brooding heartthrobs who want to talk about your feelings. Forget sunlight and stakes. Throw out your garlic and your crosses. This is the Anti-TWILIGHT.
I’ve been following Jack Kilborn (AKA: JA Konrath) for years, and I’ve promised him a beer next time he’s up in Minneapolis. Jack is the author of the long-running series of Jacqueline “Jack” Daniels books, including the upcoming Shaken.
Bram Stoker award nominee, Jeff Strand rounds out the foursome with several horror books under his belt.
The Review of Draculas
I read the pre-review copy of Draculas in a single, sleepless night. The plot is more than just straightforward, it’s dead simple. A skull reputed to be the actual skull of Dracula is discovered, and causes all sorts of problems for its new owner and many people in an isolated hospital. People attacked by vampire creatures called Draculas are either killed outright by the literally blood-thirsty monsters, or worse, converted into another of these ruthlessly fast and dangerous beings.
The body count and the monster count both ratchet up plenty quick.
The authors call Draculas “The Anti-Twilight” and I can vouch for that. You won’t find this Paranormal watered down with Romance or worse; stoic teens waffling over mindless choices. Draculas overflows with over-the-top carnage coupled with a sense of humor that would make Rob Zombie proud. The pace is fast, and made even faster by bouncing the point-of-view between many of the characters, including a chainsaw-wielding vampire clown.
Each chapter is titled with the point-of-view character’s name; a clever way to ease the transitions between characters. Some may not like the head-hopping, I thought it was a great way to keep the story fresh. Although as the story progressed, I gravitated towards my ‘favorite’ characters and began skimming the non-favorite character chapters to get to the characters that I liked.
It’s easy to see that these four authors are truly “Bringing Scary Back” to vampires. My only complaint is that parts of the story came off as schlocky humor, which took away from the horror. Not that the story had to be as serious as a CSI Minneapolis episode, but when the blood-soaked vampire clown picks up a chainsaw and heads for our hero, its giant clown shoes squeaking as it walks… When the gun-toting Dirty-Harry-wannabee pulls out a .454 as if he just got back from a black market weapons expo (why not a fifty cal elephant rifle? You were so close!) … when someone bites the vampire clown on the neck, then says “he tasted funny”…
Let’s just say humor in horror is a spice, best used sparingly. Balancing between a Horror/Comedy and a Comedy/Horror is a fine line, and subjective at that. You may find a chainsaw-wielding vampire clown with giant squeaky shoes horrific, but I’m laughing now just thinking about it. A little more serious would have been a lot more scary for me, but your mileage may vary.
The Short Review
Horrifically bloody good fun. Finally, vampires to be afraid of.
If for no other reason than sheer entertainment, you should flip open Martin Seligman’s Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life to the pessimism test to see where you rate on the scale of Pessimistic Vs Optimistic. It’s a simple series of questions that you answer using more intuition than facts. The test rates you on several different aspects of optimism/pessimism. An overall score of ten is extremely optimistic, and a score of zero is extremely pessimistic.
I scored negative two.
My immediate thought was “That test sucks” which (if you think about it) confirms the accuracy of my score. Anyway, I’d always thought that my pessimism was a trait as predetermined as my eye color and not much could be done to change it. Until I read this book.
Unlike other psychologists who labored over making troubled people ‘normal,’ Martin Seligman researched how to make the normal life better, breaking himself away from the “Self Help” genre and into “Self Improvement.” In his studies, he uncovered the causes and effects of pessimism, as well as tools pessimists can use to break their own negative cycles and become less pessimistic. He calls this ability Learned Optimism.
Why In The Hell Should I Be Optimistic?
Lets be optimistic about pessimism for a moment. Why should I change my thinking habits? Maybe I like being a pessimist!
And being pessimistic about optimism for a moment, is too much optimism such a good thing? Dr Seligman did extensive research that proved optimists are less likely to see the world and the problems in it as accurately as pessimists do.
So why be more optimistic? The answer is: Depression.
Much of Learned Optimism details scientific studies done by Martin himself on behavior, optimism, pessimism, and their relation to depression. His years of research can’t be overlooked: Pessimists are less healthy, less likely to be chosen as leaders, and more prone to depression than optimists. Martin proposes that pessimism is the primary cause of depression.
Americans by and large don’t have a problem with pessimism. Wait, let me rephrase that. The depression rate and the suicide rate in the United States have climbed significantly over the past decade, so Americans do have a problem with pessimism. According to Dr Seligman, if you can change the way you think to become more optimistic, you can affect your health, your relationships and your career in a positive way.
If you want the good stuff, flip to the last few chapters of Learned Optimism, where Martin Seligman sums up the results of a decade of research. His findings suggest that the way you explain the world to yourself, and the amount of time you spend ruminating on events has a large bearing on your optimism. Lucky for you, Learned Optimism has tips and tactics on how to undo your internal programming and overcome these limiting behaviors.
Does it work? Will it blend? Maybe if you’re optomistic. I wish I were kidding.
Some might recall the fad of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (made popular in the 90’s by Tony Robbins and others) and how “affirmations” and methods of talking to yourself would change your life. I hope everyone knows that saying “I have an Invisible Flying Pony” over and over with conviction will not make it true. I doubt saying “Every Day, In Every Way, I’m Getting Better And Better” will work either.
Then again, on the pessimist test I scored negative two on a scale of zero to ten.
We discuss regional Minnesota conventions, what we’d like to see at conventions, how to choose what conventions to go to, how to get on panels, how introverts can integrate at conventions, and survival tips for everyone!